A 34-year-old skier was killed in an avalanche last Monday afternoon (February 19) during a heli-skiing trip in the Purcell Mountains west of Radium Hot Springs.
Gotz-Thilo Ries of Karlsehie, Germany, was skiing with a group of friends south of Jumbo Mountain when the avalanche struck sometime after 2 p.m., sweeping up him and three others in its path. It was classified as a two out of a possible five on the Canadian Avalanche Scale.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the deceased,” said Rod Gibbons, operations manager at Invermere’s RK Heliski, who took the skiers on the excursion. “It is an absolute tragedy; there is no other way to describe it.”
The 150 metre-wide avalanche occurred on a backcountry run known as Perogie, and swept a path 300 metres down the mountain, enveloping the four German friends skiing together.
Two of the skiers were partially buried, with one suffering minor injuries, while another two were fully buried under an estimated 1.2 metres of snow. All skiers were wearing transceiver beacons and were found within 10 metres of each other, Mr. Gibbons added.
“The rescue went just like clockwork, for whatever that is worth,” he said.
Mr. Gibbons arrived on site, along with four members of the Panorama Mountain Village Ski Patrol, within 12 minutes of receiving the distress call.
Three of the skiers were conscious when found and were dug out by ski patrol members and RK Heliski personnel,